March 7, 2010
Agreed, this book is Essential Reading for our day.
I can only agree with the apt and succinct words of the previous reviewer, FitzRoy, and with his conclusion that Karl Popper's 'The Open Society And Its Enemies Vol I & 2' is 'essential reading for our day'. Moreover, I believe this lucid and accessible work is a tour de force and one of the most important and significant books of the 20th Century. I first read it at university about 30 years ago and have read it several times since, and I still refer to it periodically.
Popper challenges accepted orthodoxies from long past and our longstanding deference to great historical figures such as Plato, and he so does because he believes that if we are to reconstruct society and avoid totalitarianism then we must break with mistakes of the past. Rather than plagiarize further, I refer you directly to the short well-written preface of this edition.
Whether one agrees with Popper's assertions or not--and there has been some criticism of his position over the years--this erudite work forces us to reconsider and re-evaluate positions that have become almost axiomatic to most of us in Western liberal democracies. No matter what one's political views, one has to acknowledge that 'The Open Society And Its Enemies' is the outpourings of a great mind; not only is it challenging, intellectual and authoritative but it also provides about the most solid defense of and argument for an open society, liberal democracy ever written.
'The Open Society And Its Enemies'--along with Plato's 'Republic', especially Part One about what is justice--have had a huge influence on my thinking with respect to governance of people in a free society, about democracy and of course, totalitarianism. These books have made me forever vigilant about authority, its motives and the propaganda that surrounds it.
With a substantial increase in authoritarian law across most Western democracies since 911, and with governments having almost unfettered access to and use of electronics and other surveillance technologies to monitor and control populations, together with their understanding of modern social engineering techniques and their application by way of sophisticated propaganda, we citizens, more than ever, need to understand what Popper is telling us in this invaluable and important work.
In 'Nineteen Eighty Four' Orwell describes a frightening dystopian totalitarian world; Popper, a few years earlier in 'The Open Society And Its Enemies' essentially explains how certain modes of thinking enable political climates wherein the formation of such dystopian worlds are not only possible but that they do eventuate. These books might have been born amongst the ashes of WW-II politics but they have never been more relevant than they are today.
Finally a thank you: The availability of such important and influential books on the Internet Archive is a testament to how very important this service is and I heartily congratulate Brewster Kahle and his colleagues for their broad and important initiative.
March 7, 2010
Essential Reading for our day
I rate this book--along with its companion vol. 2--as among the top five most significant books of my life's reading history. Just so you know, I have a PhD and I'm 52 years old, so I've been through a lot of books.
Popper understands the nature of totalitarian governments and what leads to them. In light of the way that so many people today are looking to government for their salvation, Popper is a must read. His insight into the way historicism is the root of totalitarianism is crucial if we are to avoid future totalitarian regimes and provides the reader with a key criterion for judging current political endeavors.
One caution, please don't confuse Popper's "Open Society" with George Soros's "Open Society." They are two totally different visions.